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Attempt to prioritise national needs



I believe that there are many Sri Lankans (here and abroad), who are ready to help our country to flourish, and our people to enjoy the maximum benefits, out of the blessings that Nature has so plentifully bestowed on us. We have ruined our endowments, and reduced ourselves to disgraceful beggary. We have been blessed by our location in the Tropics. Had it not been so, we would perhaps have needed to invest all of our foreign earnings, to merely keep ourselves warm in the biting cold of Winter, and if we could not, possibly perish.

One of the alarmingly helpless laments heard is, “What is the point of writing or talking, when we are sure that nothing will ever happen”? I do not believe so, as the youth of the Aragalaya have also proved otherwise.

The authorities seem to be deaf and blind, and ready to sacrifice all that of the “other” in their insatiable greed for power and pelf.

I am cautiously hopeful. This is what emboldens me to keep on writing. After all, it is the incessant beatings of little drops of rain that convert even the hardest of rocks into fertile soil. Persistence and patience in doggedly and relentlessly pursuing a worthy goal, are the operative words. The youth in the Aragalaya, unlike the senior citizens, displayed their courage to do so against fearful odds, and rally against corruption.

There are three main areas we have to concentrate on: population, environment and law and order.

Some Cosmetic changes

“Great Britain”, became “Britain”. Likewise, “Lanka” could be modest, and less pompous than “Sri Lanka”.

There are examples. “Slave Island ” became Kompanna Veediya and the innocent “Havelock Road ” was renamed “Srimath Anagarika Dharmapala Mawatha”. The August Assembly could become more reminiscent of a staid Parliament, and less like a disorderly fish market.

Democracy rests on three pillars––Executive, Legislative and Judiciary. The Judiciary could largely remain as it is. It must however be admitted that certain rulings, particularly those concerning politicians, are disturbing. Inordinate delays in the legal process should be eliminated. “The Executive” (President as of now), should logically move to, and Head “The Legislative,” whose function is to formulate Laws, and to supervise their intended implementation.

What we consider as the “Administration”, should properly be “the Executive”. The term to “execute” is to act, to perform and to deliver. This is precisely what it does, or is expected to do. It is the government arm close to the public; it is in need of reform.

Needless to say, “Cabinets”-should be established solely in the interests of effectively serving the needs of the public. They have instead become an instrument, not for the common public. They have instead become an instrument, not for the common good, but for shameless electoral convenience.

The first Cabinet at Independence had only about eleven or twelve members. Today, there could be nearly 50 ministers of all sorts. This is more to assure votes for the governing party, than to provide useful service. This is a naked betrayal of trust.

Monks in Parliament have generally been a disaster.

The diabolical dissolution of the former CCS, mostly comprising an elite and fearlessly independent set of administrators, was a tiresome barrier to the corrupt, who had it destroyed. Felix Dias was the man to willingly and willfully do it. Today, we have for the crooked politician, a comfortably compliant service in place of what should be one of such propriety that none will dare corrupt.

Corruption is so entrenched in every nook and cranny of the system that drastic action has to be taken to eliminate it. The complicit quickly learn the ways of the game and gleefully violate all principles of honesty, integrity, decency and culture. The whole structure cries out for urgent reform, and to be made leaner by trimming the superfluous. Some will need a new spine and some others would warrant castration. In view of the fact that the Politician is often the source of the evil pollutant and source, I began to write about this in some detail. The text got to be so long that I decided to leave it for the present, and resolved to honour it with an article on its own.

Population issues

Every livestock farmer is familiar with the concept of “carrying capacity” which determines the number of chickens that can be sustained in a cage or cows in a field. What applies to animals surely should apply to our species as well. Natural laws are universally valid. A farmer reduces his excess stock when it exceeds his capacity, by “culling”. This cannot conceivably be applied to human populations. Has Nature taken over by inflicting periodic natural or self- inflicted disasters (conflicts or diseases) to restore some stability?

Population increases exponentially, while production of (food) can only increase linearly. Thus, the former outgrows the latter. At that time, this was condemned as a diabolical plot to deny the benefits of the Industrial Revolution to the poorer countries or the poorer segments of society. It seems that Malthus’ dire warning is now proving its validity.

Making some assumptions, our population is said to increase by 1.8 % per annum. This means an annual population increase of about 420,000. I am no demographer and the numbers could be erroneous. But as a crude estimate and by a crude calculation, I make this out to be 1.8 x 21,000,000 divided by 100. This works out to an annual increase of 22,000. That is roughly about 800 to 1,000 per day. This is ridiculously high, or in fancy words, in error by a magnitude. Whatever, can our country handle the implication of demands by such numbers?

Likewise, schools, houses, jobs, Universities, transport, hospital beds, power and so many other basic needs that our societies enjoy and take for granted. One has to note that these are estimated daily requirements. Even if today’s needs are met, tomorrows will loom menacingly. This assumes that the present standards of living remain as they are. This seems an impossible task. The only option is some sort of population planning, which of course will be resisted.

The environment

Global warming might seem a distant prospect that may not bother us at the moment. This is so, although recent observations suggest that the earlier projections were in error, and the worry is more severe than at first feared.

Several of our major rivers flow brown from eroded soil. This points to serious flaws in our land and water use. The Soil Conservation Act which prohibited forest clearance above elevations of 4,000 feet. was prohibited, but continued nevertheless, mainly for tea planting. If such tea is left unharvested. They would grow into small trees of about 10-15 feet and also allow the establishment of secondary forests of tree species natural to these areas.

Sand for building construction requirements are normally met by river sand. Remembering that most soils have only a small percentage (say 10%) of sand, every ton of sand removed, would mean that ten tons of soil has been eroded. It has been estimated that it would take about 400 years for an inch of soil to be restored by the weathering of rock, Thus, a massive tonnage of rock is required to replenish the topsoil washed away continuously.

Forests constitute the natural barriers against erosion. Our forest cover which was estimated to have been about 60 % of our land area at the beginning of the last century, has diminished to less than 18 % now. Urbanisation, farming, uncontrolled felling for timber are the main causes of this decline.

Hitherto, forests have been protected mainly by forbidding human entry into forest sanctuaries and control of illicit felling. It is being realised that policing of forests is ineffective. Much the better method is to allow reasonable access to humans for gathering of indigenous herbs required for Ayurveda, firewood from fallen branches and thus engender a sense of ownership and thus offer a protective option, that is much more economical than the hitherto attempted policing of large extents, A new concept of participatory “Agroforestry” has developed, The hitherto degraded “Kandyan Mixed Garden” has regained respectability. The traditional Rotational or Shifting Cultivation (the Chena system’) is better regulated. Destructive, mechanised logging operations and unsupervised encroachments, illegal felling and sand mining. Are much better controlled.

There is also a salutary interest in deterring pollution (principally by long-life reusable plastics).

Dr. Upatissa Pethiyagoda

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One of best development administrators SL ever had



Mr. K. Thayaparan (KT), who retired from the government service after serving as a development administrator for more than thirty years passed away on Jan 05 at the age of 86. He was born in 1937 in Malaya, which was then under the British rule; his father had migrated there in 1916 for employment. His father was employed in the Malayan Railways, and the family was living a happy life. In the late 1940s, there erupted a terrorist movement launched by Communists of Chinese origin. To fight with the terrorists the British Government had issued a conscription order for all school leavers above the age of 17 years to join the military. Many families with male children over 17 years fled to Ceylon to avoid conscription. Since KT’s family also had a male child who had been noticed to report for military duty, his family members too other than his father left Malaya in 1951 and came to live in Ceylon. In Jaffna, KT resumed and completed his school education. In 1958 he entered the University of Ceylon at Peradeniya to undertake studies in geography, economics and history.

During the university days, KT had won university colours in badminton. He graduated in 1961, and served as a school teacher in the Matara district. In 1962, after sitting a competitive examination, KT joined the Government Divisional Revenue Officers’ service. In 1963, together with the other officers of the DROs’ service and comparable services, KT was absorbed into the Ceylon Administrative Service that had been created in place of the Ceylon Civil Service, which had simultaneously been abolished.

Till 1975 KT served in the district administration in the northern districts, first as DRO, then as Asst. Government Agent and as Addl. Government Agent. From 1976 to 1979 he worked in the Ministry of Fisheries as Deputy Director Planning, and contributed to the development of the National Fisheries Development Plan 1979 – 1983. The Fisheries Development Plan, among other activities had concentrated on exploitation of the fish resources in the Sri Lanka’s exclusive economic zone, which was proclaimed in 1977, and utilisation of irrigation reservoirs and village tanks for development of inland fisheries. The Government made a policy decision to implement an accelerated programme to develop inland fisheries and aquaculture. For this purpose, a new Division called the Inland Fisheries Division was set up in the Ministry, and KT was appointed its director.

The accelerated development programme had a number of activities to perform. Establishment of fish breeding stations in different parts of the country, recruitment and training of scientific and technical officers to serve at fish breeding centres, import of exotic fish species suitable for culture in Sri Lankan inland waterbodies, training of youth in inland fishing and aquaculture, promotion of investments in shrimp farming, etc. Funding agencies like UNDP, ADB and individual countries on bilateral basis came forward to support the accelerated inland fisheries development programme by providing funds for development of infrastructure, providing technical assistance, providing foreign training for the scientific and technical staff who were mostly young people without experience, and providing advisory services. It was heavy work for KT, but he managed the Division and its work smoothly.

KT was a firm believer in team work. He knew workers in all outstation inland fisheries or aquaculture establishments by name. He distributed foreign training slots offered by donor countries or agencies to every scientific or technical officer on an equitable basis. He listened to everybody, and was quite loved by his staff. KT was quite neutral in politics. However, in spite of his hard work to develop the inland fisheries sector, he was transferred out of the Ministry in 1985 to the SLAS Pool.

In 1979 when KT took over the responsibility of developing inland fisheries and aquaculture in the country, the total national inland fish production in Sri Lanka was 17,400 tons. During his tenure of nearly six years, the national inland fish production steadily increased and in 1985, the year he was transferred it had increased to 32,700 tons, showing an increase of nearly 90%. Also, there were 4,500 inland fishing craft operating in reservoirs, and the number employed as fishers, fish collectors, fish traders, etc. was over 10,000.

After leaving the Ministry of Fisheries he served different assignments such as Director Regional Development, National Consultant or the World Bank funded Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Project, Secretary to the North-East Provincial Council Ministry of Agriculture, Lands and Fisheries, and Secretary to the State Ministry Hindu Religious and Cultural Affairs. In 1995, he was appointed Addl. Secretary Development of the Ministry of Fisheries, but his stay in this post was brief since the then Minister replaced him with one of his political supporters. His last government assignment was as Addl. Secretary, Ministry of Plan Implementation, National Integration and Ethnic Affairs. In 1997, he retired from the government service, but continued in a few foreign funded projects as institutional development consultant. He once told that his most productive period in the government service was as Director Inland Fisheries. After retirement he authored several books, Reminiscences of Malaya 1937 – 1951, Stories of Some Brave Men and High Achievers, and Introduction to Some Known High Achievers.

Although he was quite suitable to be appointed the Secretary to a Ministry, he was never considered for such a post. In the final years of his career, he was compelled to serve under his juniors. But he carried on regardless and did the best in whatever the capacity he served.


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It was not Central Bank bond scam



I was surprised and sorry to read a journalist attached to The Island writing about a central bank bond scam: surprised because, the editor of The Island, in his inimitable editorials, consistently refers to a treasury bond scam; sorry, because it is simply factually wrong. I have driven home that point several times in The Island and assumed that that canard was dead. Would you permit me to flog a not-so-dead horse?

There never was a central bank bond scam; there could not have been, because there was no market in central bank bonds. The central bank has not issued its own liabilities at least since 1967. The currency notes issued by the Central Bank are liabilities of the government (aanduva/state?) of Sri Lanka. (Should you not clear up that mess confusing ‘state’ with the ‘government’?  It is one thing to have faith in the state of Sri Laska and quite another to have faith in the government of Ranil Wickremesinghe.)  The Central Bank issues those bills (it does currency) on behalf of the state/government of Sri Lanka and they are not the liabilities of the Central Bank or the Monetary Board. There was a scam in government bonds in 2015 as well as in 2016.

As became clearer in the course of the Chitrasiri Commission, the then-governor of the Central Bank and a few other officers of the Central Bank were parties to that financial fraud involving government bonds. The Central Bank is simply the agent of the government/state who markets government liabilities. Those liabilities do not become the Bank’s liabilities. When you carry Sri Lanka currency, you carry liabilities, much like government bonds, of an entity whose credit is low. The Central Bank of Sri Lanka is not in the picture.


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Ampitiya That I Knew



Ampitiya is a village just two miles from Kandy. The road to Talatuoya, Marassana, Galaha and turning left from Talatuoya to Tennekumbura and Hanguranketha and beyond goes through Ampitiya.My family moved there in 1949 when our paternal grandfather bequeathed the ancestral home to our father to be effective after our grandfather’s demise. Until then the eldest sister of our father’s family with her family and the two bachelor brothers lived in the house. After living in various places our father was transferred to on duty, we had come to our final abode there.

The house was situated about 100 yards before the second mile post. There were paddy fields both in front of the house and behind it with a mountain further away. These were salubrious surroundings to live in. There was no hustle and bustle as in a town and the only noise would have been the occasional tooting of horns and the call of vendors selling various household needs.

The Ampitiya village extended from near the entrance to the Seminary and the school situated a short climb away along Rajapihilla Mawatha (now Deveni Rajasinghe Mawatha) on the road from Kandy ending at the gate to the Seminary, and running up to the Diurum Bodiya temple.

Ampitiya was well known thanks to the Seminary of our Lady of Lanka located there. Newly ordained Catholic priests took theology classes here. The Seminary with its majestic building commanded a fine view of the Dumbara valley. The student priests lived in the hostel called Montefano St. Sylvester’s Monastery situated just above the sloping rice fields coming down to the Kandy-Talatuoya Road. There was a volleyball court within the Montefano premises and we used to see the young priests enjoying themselves playing a game in the evenings as the court was quite visible from our house.

We, as schoolboys of the neighbourhood, used to get together during many weekends and play cricket on the roadway to the Montefano which was just past the second milepost as there was no vehicular traffic then on that road.

Ampitiya had a school started by the Catholic Church and known as Berrewaerts College which later became the Ampitiya Maha Vidyalaya. At the time our family became residents of Ampitiya this was the only school. Later the Catholic Church established a girls’ school named Carmel Hill Convent. This school enabled most girls who had to go all the way to Kandy or Talatuoya by bus to walk to school.

People who follow sports, especially athletics, would have heard the names of Linus Dias, Sellappuliyage Lucien Benedict Rosa (best known in Sri Lanka as SLB Rosa) and Ranatunga Karunananda, all Ampitiya products who participated in the Olympics as long distance runners competing in the 10,000 metres event. Linus Dias captained the Sri Lankan contingent in the Rome Olympics in 1960.Though they were not able to emulate Duncan White they took part.

Karunananda became a hero in Sri Lanka as well as in Japan when at the Tokyo Olympics of October 1964 he completed the 10,000 metre course running the last four laps all alone. The crowd cheered him all the way to the finish appreciating his courage in not abandoning the already completed race. Later he said he was living up to the Olympic motto which said the main thing is to take part and not to win.

Rosa captained the Sri Lankan team in the 1972 Munich Olympics. He switched to long distance running while still a student thanks to the Principal of Ampitiya Maha Vidyalaya, Mr. Tissa Weerasinghe (a hall mate of mine one year senior to me at Peradeniya) who had noted his stamina and asked him to switch to long distance events. I must mention that Tissa was responsible for bringing this school to a high standard from where it was when he took over.

Coincidentally, during our Ampitiya days, all the houses from Uduwela junction for about half a mile towards Talatuoya were occupied by our relatives! They included the Warakaulles, Koswattes, Pussegodas, Sangakkaras, Godamunnes, Thalgodapitiyas and Wijekoons. Now most of these houses are occupied by others.

Ampitiya area had two Buddhist temples. One was the Dalukgolla Rajamaha Viharaya on the Ratemulla Road and the other, Ampitiya Diurum Bodiya, near the third mile post. From the latter temple a famous Buddhist monk, Ven. Ampitye Rahula Thero later joined the Vajirarama temple in Colombo and was highly recognized by Buddhists just like Ven. Narada and Ven.Piyadassi Theros.

The Uduwela temple had a water spout emerging out of a granite rock where the temple priests and neighbours used to bathe and wash their clothes. This spout never ran dry.

At present the landscape of Ampitiya has changed hugely. Most of the sloping paddy fields have been filled and dwelling houses have come up. The majestic view, except for faraway mountains, is no longer present. A five-star hotel has been built just beyond the second mile post and the area has lost its previous tranquility. A person of my vintage who once lived there visiting Ampitiya now wouldn’t be able to recognize the place given the changes.



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